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F3J Beginners Clinic


F3J started in the UK as a TD alternative to F3B.  The basic concept was to create a relaxed contest that required minimal equipment.  No winch wars, just some mono and a buddy to pull the plane up.  It was thought that big old floaters would rule the day, and the hand tow would be easy on the planes.  As will all competitions, the sport has evolved to a highly competitive precision event.  Big events are won or lost based on how close to the horn you launch and land, how much time you spend on the towline, and how good your landings are.


Fundamentally F3J is a relatively simple game.  There are a number of teams (usually 4 man) that are matrixed to fly against each other at the same time.    There is a preparation time that is used to set out lines and equipment and get ready to fly on the flight line.  Immediately following the prep time is the working time.  The pilot launches any time after the buzzer that begins the working time and must land prior to the buzzer signaling the end of the working time.  The pilot is aiming at a landing spot that provides bonus points for closeness to the spot.  The total of the number of seconds flown plus landing points is the pilots score.  After a number of preliminary rounds, a designated number of pilots advance to the fly-offs based on their individual scores.  There are generally no team scores except in the World Championships.  Note that multiple pilots from the same team may make the flyoffs and will compete against each other.

Basic Rules

I will summarize the basic rules here.  There are a lot of rules to be followed and the best thing is to read, and understand the official FAI rules.  You can find a copy of them here (note that this is for all RC Soaring events – refer to the F3J section for specific rules):

  • Time starts when you release from the line
  • Time stops when you hit a ground based object (not counting towlines)
  • Record time to 2 decimal places (the rules specify 1 decimal place, but we always record to 2 to avoid problems with rounding)
  • You must launch from inside the launch corridor.  The launch corridor, a 6m wide lane that represents the flight line.  If you do not, you must land and relaunch in the corridor.
  • Penalties: Flying less than 3 meters over any safety area or if any part of your plane stops in the safety zone you get a 100 point permanent penalty.  Safety penalties are permanent and cannot be erased by a throwout of the offending round.  The minimum safety area is the launch corridor.  Officials may designate other areas at their discretion.  Other safety areas must be described in the pilot meeting.
  • You must land within 75 meters from the 100 point mark of your landing zone, if not you get a zero score for the flight.
  • You may relaunch 1 time inside the window.  Once the plane leaves your hand on the launch it is considered an attempt and the score for that flight counts.
  • You may request a reflight as a result of the following conditions:
    • Collision in the air with another model
    • Collision with another pilots launch line
    • Another plane hits your launch line
    • An egregious hindrance that causes you – thru no fault of your own to not be able to complete the flight.  Note that this rule is rarely applied.
    • A competitors towline is not removed from over your line when you need to launch
    • YOU MUST IMMEDIATELY CLAIM THE HINDRANCE AND TERMINATE YOUR FLIGHT.  Continuing to fly implies that you accept the hindrance and waive your right to a reflight.
    • For your reflight you may be scheduled in the next available group, or with a randomly selected set of pilots
    • Zero Flights – there are several conditions that cause you to receive a zero flight:
      • Losing any part in the air except  as the result of a collision with another model or towline. (shedding parts on landing is OK!)
      • Landing more than 75 meters from your landing spot
      • Anyone other than the pilot  controls the aircraft
      • Launching
        • No mechanical aids other than a pulley may be used.
        • Towers must immediately remove the line so it does not cross a competitors line
        • Special rules apply for the launch equipment and will be covered later
        • Towlines – note that in many local competitions where there are enough lanes for all teams, we allow the teams to leave their lines out on the field.
          • Must be set out in the 5 minute Prep time
          • Must be reeled in by the end of the working time
          • May not exceed 150m under a 20N pull (about 5lbs)
          • Landing
            • Must land on the tape for points
            • If the model hits the pilot or his helper, the landing points are zero
            • If you land after the horn – 0 landing points and 30 point penalty
            • Flyoffs – the number of pilots in the flyoff is generally determined by the organizer.
              • The highest N pilots go on to the finals (fly-offs)
              • Scores are discarded from the prelims
              • The winner of the Fly-offs is the event winner.
              • If there is a tie, the tie is broken by the placement of the pilot in the preliminary rounds.
  • Teams

    While scores are recorded on an individual basis, F3J is very much a team sport.  Having a good team is both helpful to individual scores as well as necessary to minimize the need for outside help.  Since F3J requires hand tows, the minimum optimum team is 4 fit pilots.  In this configuration you can fly, call and tow for yourselves as a self contained unit with 2 of the pilots towing and the other 2 flying and calling, rotating as necessary.  Various other combinations of teams are necessary to support other team requirements such as pilots unable to tow, smaller team sizes etc.  Generally volunteer or hired towers are used to fill in the team for these conditions.  Usually there is team protection, meaning that pilots on the same team will not fly against each other during the preliminary rounds.  Pilots from the same team can make the flyoffs- and will then fly against each other.



    Pulley and Stake. Safety wires to the left are not pictured but they are there. Stake is not completely in the ground for this picture.